After Years of Protest, Some Marines Will Leave Base on Japanese Island of Okinawa

Thousands of US Marines will withdraw from a military base on the Japanese island of Okinawa as part of an agreement reached between Japan and the United States.

In total, 9,000 Marines will leave the base, with 5,000 going to a Guam base. The deal comes after years of protest by Japanese activists, who are opposed to the heavy US military presence on the island. In April 2010, 90,000 people rallied to call for the relocation of the military base, reportedly the largest protest on the island in years.

CNN has more details on how the Okinawa base became a major political issue in Japanese politics:

The U.S. military presence on Okinawa has caused considerable controversy. Some have complained about noise from the base, in an urban area. Many others were incensed by the misconduct of U.S. troops stationed there, including the 1995 rape of 12-year-old Japanese girl by three U.S. military personnel.

Opposition to the presence of U.S. troops in Okinawa runs so deep that it contributed to the resignation of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in 2010. He had promised to move the base but later announced that the base would stay, a decision he called "heartbreaking."

His critics said then that he gave in to U.S. pressure, and his government coalition broke up.

Despite the deal, which will cost the US and Japanese governments $8.6 billion, it’s not a total victory for anti-base activists. About 10,000 Marines will remain on the base.

The backdrop to this news is the Obama administration’s stated policy of focusing on Asia to counteract China after years of focus on the Middle East. The move to have 5,000 Marines go to Guam is part of what CNN calls a large “U.S. military build up in Asia” as China continues to rapidly grow “as a major economic and military power.”

AlterNet / By Alex Kane

Posted at April 27, 2012, 10:18am